stressedWorries over the credit crunch, job security, childcare and the late shopping rush could all mount up during the Festive season, so employers are being warned to watch out for symptoms of seasonal stress in their staff.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), Europe’s largest professional health and safety body, said that those working in shops, pubs and restaurants could find themselves under greater pressure than normal, with many enticing people with cut price offers in a desperate bid to boost sales figures.

John Holden, IOSH’s president, said:

“The Festive season is a traditionally busy time, and many people will find themselves under extra pressure at work as they deal with extra shoppers and deadlines as the year comes to a close. Not only this, but there’s also the pressure of buying presents for friends and relatives, which can be quite stressful.

“Employers also have to be aware that the festive period is a time when people’s financial worries peak. Given the year we’ve just had, people may also be anxious about the security of their job, and parents who have to work during the festive period have the added task of sorting out childcare,” John added.

“So it’s a time for employers to be extra vigilant. Work is not always the key factor behind pressured people coming down with stress, but it can be the straw that breaks the camels back. Bosses need to be aware of their duty to ensure the health and safety of their staff.”

In the UK, recent statistics indicate that work-related stress accounts for over a third of all new incidences of ill health, with 415,000 people in 2008/09 believing work-related stress was making them ill. Work-related stress, depression and anxiety led to the loss of 11.4 million work days. On average, a member of staff off work with work-related stress will be absent for around 27 days.

John continued:

“Employers can help their staff to deal with the pressure – it only needs little things. These include ensuring workers take proper breaks and have someone they can talk to. It might also mean offering some flexibility in working hours, particularly for parents who’ve got childcare arrangements to make.

“At this time of year, many firms take on temporary staff to help them cope with the rush. But remember to ensure you properly supervise them, and have an experienced member of staff on hand to support them in case they encounter any problems. Don’t just leave them to cope on their own.”

There are many signs of stress, but some common signs and symptoms include:

  • increased susceptibility to colds and other infections
  • headaches
  • tiredness and sleep difficulties
  • back and neckache
  • digestive problems
  • wanting to cry
  • short temperedness
  • eating when you’re not hungry
  • smoking and drinking excessively, and
  • loss of motivation and commitment.

IOSH has produced a free of charge Occupational Health Toolkit which provides advice and training material on tackling stress.